HOUSTON – (By Michelle Leigh Smith for Realty News Report) – While some of the $3 billion in new construction planned for the next ten years is purely physical at the Texas Medical Center, there are Bio Bridges being built that will be true gateways to new and life-saving treatments. One such path is the TMC-Australia BioBridge, which includes a commitment to collaborate on research for clinical trials.
“With the advent of artificial intelligence (AI), we have a new tool that will shorten this process from months to minutes,” said Bill McKeon, President and CEO of the Texas Medical Center at the annual State of the TMC luncheon last week sponsored by the Greater Houston Partnership.
“AI can learn the unique terminology used by physicians and automatically search through patient notes, making it faster and easier to match patients to the appropriate clinical trial,” McKeon said.
McKeon recently returned from Australia where he visited with Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Australian Minister of Health Greg Hunt to look at ways researchers who are studying treatments for rare cancers and childhood diseases will be able to get the necessary number of patients more quickly, since they can pull from a larger, international pool of patients.
Discoveries made at TMCx reflect positively on Houston, while also changing the future of healthcare delivery and extending lifespans.
While this year’s banner selection of Nobel Prize winner Dr. Jim Allison from M.D. Anderson Cancer Center brought the spotlight to TMC in a big way, Allison’s modesty about his checkpoint blockade approach to treating cancer. Allison was awarded the 2018 Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine jointly with Japanese immunologist Dr. Tasuku Hongo. McKeon showed a video during which Allison said a patient came to him, asking to help her live long enough to attend her son’s graduation in two months. She recently came in for her 10-year check up.
McKeon shared advancements in a rather amazing goal, one that is nothing less than changing the world by supporting early stage biomedical companies to develop breakthrough ideas and technologies. The TMC Venture Fund now has $25 million to help fill the early-stage funding gap in Houston and bolster the Houston healthcare innovation ecosystem. Investments are made with the goal of assisting technologies and companies through R&D, operational and clinical milestones so they can be successful in obtaining later rounds of investments.
Among the exciting expansions coming online, the Harris County Psychiatric Hospital has been granted land for 304 new beds. “We are completely under supported in mental health,” says McKeon. “UTMB’s League City campus has expanded with a five-story tower, adding 60 beds and they have a lease on 191 beds in Clear Lake that will be available in the spring of 2019.”
Currently, there are 9,200 patient beds within the 50 million developed square feet of the TMC.
The University of Houston’s new medical school, slated to sit on 43 acres off MLK Blvd. at Old Spanish Trail near MacGregor Park is planned for the community they plan to serve.
Also coming in 2019 is Texas A&M’s Health Science Center, a project scoped at more than 1.5 million SF, on the new TMC3 30-acre collaborative research campus off Bertner between Old Spanish Trail and Braeswood. McKeon lauded Texas A&M Health Science Center Senior Vice President Carrie Byington who shared: “This transformational endeavor offers us a platform for research and commercial pursuits in the Texas Medical Center.”
TMC will partner with four of its 60 members – Baylor College of Medicine, Texas A&M University Health Science Center, The University of Texas Health Science Center and The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center to attract top tier experience and leading researchers.
“It’s what I think will be the most exciting, activated area of the medical city in the future,” McKeon said. He showed drawings of a rooftop park in a breath-taking double-helix layout that will be visible from the air, whether visitors arrive via Hobby or George Bush International airports. A new hotel, conference center, restaurants and retails spaces are planned.
TMC also partners with U.K. trade department for life sciences research.
McKeon applauded the entry of companies like Johnson & Johnson and AT&T’s The Foundry to nurture the incubators where new medical devices are designed. “Without the economic fuel, these companies will disappear to the East Coast and West Coast,” he said. “The TMC Development Institute gives them a reason to stay. Here, they have partners who can help pilot their projects through the regulatory hurdles.”
McKeon joined the Texas Medical Center in 2013 as executive vice president, chief operating and strategy officer. He’s facilitated a series of global alliances, partnerships and new relationships that already have resulted in job growth, with the TMC now providing more than 106,000 jobs. The TMC encompasses 1,345 total acres and produces $25B in GDP, making it the eighth largest business district in the U.S.
McKeon has served as an executive for some of the leading companies and institutions in the world, including DuPont, Stanford University Medical Center, Raytel, US Oncology and Medtronic. His experience as a President and CEO includes heading up industry-changing companies MicroPort Medical Co. in Shanghai and Cellnovo in London.
Bob Harvey, president and CEO of GHP, opened the meeting at the Hilton of the Americas, welcoming guests from Norton Rose Fulbright, Aecom, AT&T, Husch Blackwell, and Rice University’s Executive Education team from the Jesse Jones School. “When I travel the world, my calling card is the Texas Medical Center, because that’s what they think of when they think of Houston,” Harvey said. “There’s a group in Shanghai who want to emulate our model.”
The TMC tracks 10 million patient encounters each year, 750,000 ER visits per year, 13,600 heart surgeries and 180,000 surgeries each year, with more than 25,000 babies delivered per year.